Before my daughter Reese was born, I had another “baby.” For several years, my golden retriever, Abbie, pretty much had it made. My husband and I welcomed her to our home when she was 12 weeks old in September 2007 and wasted no time showering her with affection, toys, treats and walks.
Abbie was — and, for the most part, still is — one spoiled pup. To this day, she’s overly affectionate as a result of countless hours of near-constant snuggling, petting, tummy rubbing and ear scratching during the first five years of her life. She became accustomed to sleeping in bed between my husband and me. She enjoyed occasional table scraps, and no day was ever complete without a 30-minute stroll around our neighborhood. We frequently bathed and groomed Abbie, combed her thick coat, trimmed her nails and brushed her teeth.
These days, Abbie is lucky if we remember to dump a cup of Iams kibble in her bowl and take her out to the backyard for five minutes every now and then. It’s not that I’m no longer crazy about Abbie — I am. I just don’t have the time or energy to dote on her like I used to. And, poor thing, she’s such a good sport about it.
Not only is Abbie missing out on all the “luxuries” she once enjoyed, she now has to contend with daily confrontations with our toddler, who is borderline obsessed with chasing the dog; pulling her tail, ears and whiskers; stealing her toys; and teasing her by holding out a bit of food and then snatching it back right as Abbie tries to take a bite. Reese finds that routine hilarious. The dog doesn’t.
Of course, my husband and I are trying to teach Reese to treat animals kindly and gently. We encourage her to stroke Abbie’s soft fur and pat her on the head, toss her a ball and feed her Milk Bones when she’s done something worthy. But getting a 16-month-old to absorb these lessons is not exactly easy.
My husband and I still do our best to take care of Abbie, who has been a loyal, protective and sweet pet all these years. She still gets baths, regular checkups with our veterinarian and occasional — although not daily — walks. She’s up to date on all of her shots, of course, and gets her preventative heartworm and flea medication on schedule.
And Abbie didn’t completely lose the battle when Reese came along — she’s still getting a few perks out of the deal. She can scarcely contain herself as she lurks around Reese’s high chair, gobbling up morsels of food before they’ve even hit the floor. Obviously, I don’t mind this, either, because it means less time spent sweeping and mopping up the floor for me.
Also, Reese and Abbie play a bathtub game of sorts nearly every night, which consists of Reese splashing water over the edge of the tub so Abbie can lap it up in mid-air. They appear to be having the time of their lives.
I hope that when Reese gets older, she and Abbie can play together nicely and entertain themselves in the backyard for hours on end with nothing more than a sprinkler and a Frisbee, just as my sister and I did with our pups when we were growing up. Few sights are sweeter to behold than that of a child and a dog enjoying each other’s company.